Inside an Agent’s Inbox by Heather Novak

One of the coolest things about being on my chapter board for Romance Writers of America is meeting so many AMAZING people! I have become friends with several agents, some to the point where we have lunch and talk about Gilmore Girls (#TeamJess), and thus I have gleaned some insider information. I will now share this insider information with you.

After a survey, the #1 most important rule, unanimously decided, is:

1) NEVER EVER RESPOND TO AN AGENT’S REJECTION UNLESS THEY DIRECTLY ASK YOU TO.

Never.

“But Heather-“

NEVER.

“What about…”

NOPE. HARD STOP.

If you are invited to respond, or asked to revise and resubmit, then yes, respond accordingly (this means, respond with your revision.) If you have a question about the revise and resubmit, you can ask it clearly, kindly, and quickly.

I feel like I need to keep talking about not responding to a rejection, because it’s SO IMPORTANT. And this stands true for all genres. It’s pretty much the #1 piece of advice on every query and agent blog ever.

It doesn’t matter how many times you get, “I just didn’t connect” or “this just isn’t for me,” DO NOT RESPOND. Do not ask why. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

What do you do when you have no answers? Hire someone whose job it is to tell you what is working and what is not. This is not an agent’s job, unless they are YOUR agent. 

Hire a professional and get a freelance edit or manuscript critique. Also try sensitivity readers, beta readers, and wine. Lots…of…wine…

Ultimately, it could just be that there just isn’t a market for your book, and if agents can’t sell it, they don’t eat.  

Most importantly, never, ever tell an agent they’re wrong for not accepting you. It’s a small world. Don’t burn that bridge by responding.

*deep breath*

Okay, let’s continue.

2) Know what genre you write.

I’m not even kidding.

Before you send a query, before you give a pitch, know what genre your book is. If you’re not sure, you’re not ready to be querying. Here’s a basic list to get you started.

3) Here is a secret that agents cannot tell you, since no agent should ever ask you to spend money to get representation (RED FLAG). But, I’m going to tell you from my years in the field. You really need to get that manuscript professionally edited, as much as you can within your budget, before you query.

Don’t balk. Read this blog by John M. Cusick – “Publishers Don’t Want Good Books.”

The market is REALLY tough right now. It’s not good enough to be good anymore. It’s not even good enough to be great. You have to be FANTASTIC. 

There are always exceptions, always. But if you want the best shot at the best agents, find a professional editor with the most experience you can. If you can’t? Find a trusted friend. Have at least one other person read your book. AT LEAST.

4) Don’t be racist. WHY IS THIS EVEN SOMETHING I NEED TO ADD?! Get a sensitivity reader, get an editor, do whatever you need to do to check yourself. (If your book is dealing with racism, make sure you have at least one sensitivity reader.)

5) FORCED OR COERCED SEX IS NEVER OKAY BETWEEN THE HERO AND HEROINE. That’s not romance, that’s a crime. Why is this even something I need to mention? We have a responsibility to teach people about consent. If you need help figuring out how to write consent, let me know! I’ll hook you up with some amazing resources.

6) Do not stalk the agents in the bathroom. Or grocery store. Or restaurant. Or on Twitter…(oops, I kinda failed at that one…) 

Just say no.

Walk away.

Also, be respectful of their personal space. The last conference I was at (not an RWA conference), I was talking to an agent who had to hide behind me – BEHIND ME – so we could have a conversation without someone interrupting. It was like hanging out with a famous person.

7) Participate in pitch parties, interact with agents and editors on Twitter, say hi at conferences, and be kind. People will remember the good as well as the bad.

8) Look up the agent’s requirements for pitching/submission. Follow the requirements to the letter, address the agent by name. Don’t query with genres they don’t accept. Don’t send a generic letter.


9) Make your opening lines count. Agents read fast. Some agents get five emails a day, some get hundreds. You have five seconds to make it count. You have to prove you want this and you’re worth it in around seven sentences. You can easily get query and pitching help through many writer groups online. Take the time to perfect both your story and your pitch before hitting “send.”

10) Keep writing. Some people can sell their first book, others finally sell book three or four or ten. The best chance you have is to keep coming back with strong work. Eventually, someone will notice.

Keep writing, be respectful, don’t stalk. These are my words of advice to you all!



On this day in 1968 – Helen Keller passed away. She was an American author, lecturer and activist, campaigned for women’s suffrage, labor rights and socialism; she was blind and deaf from a young age. (b. 1880)


Wishing You Laughter & Good Books,BannerWithInfo_ForWeb
Heather Novak
Find me at:
Twitter: authorheathern
Instagram: authorheathern
Facebook: authorheathernovak

Hunting Witch Hazel: Now available
I was happy with my West Coast life – 24-hour pizza delivery and bikini-clad bodies as far as the eye could see. Now I’m in the small-ass town of 
Hayvenwood to extract a ransom to save my little brother’s life. And that ransom is locked inside of the sexiest witch I have ever met, Hazel Evanora.

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About Heather Novak, Author

Bewitching romance with a bold twist. Focusing on powerful imagery and emotional storytelling – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry. Only Happily Ever Afters allowed.
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2 Responses to Inside an Agent’s Inbox by Heather Novak

  1. Pingback: Inside an Agent’s Inbox by Heather Novak | Linda Bradley

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